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Chapter One

There was a noise coming from downstairs; from somewhere around the vicinity of the front door I heard a scratching.

It was subtle at first – the light touch of an object brushing against the grain of the wood.

I rolled over, sending a dusty, dog-eared velvet pillow tumbling off the bed and onto the equally dog-eared carpet below.

I closed my eyes, intent on going back to sleep. The noise, however, didn’t stop, and this damn house was so large that even the tiniest sound was magnified like a trumpet as it echoed through these empty dusty halls.

It was probably some unusually persistent woodland creature, I decided, and rolled over again.

A badger maybe, a squirrel? Some lonely puppy dog that’d bolted from one of the near-by country estates only to find life in the rolling woods not nearly as fine as life in the manor?

Oh, fine then.” I grumbled, pushing the covers off with a great harrumph. If whatever was scratching at my door was so damn intent on ruining the woodwork, I'd give it a piece of my mind.

I thundered down the stairs, tying the cords of my thick dressing gown around my middle.

I hear you. I hear you,” I mumbled under my breath, “Keep your damn tail on.”

I reached for the handle.

I opened the door.

I didn't see the enterprising woodland creature I expected.

I froze. My stomach sucked in with a tension-filled, electric charge as my eyes widened at the sight before me.

A gun. It was a gun. There was a man with a gun on my doorstep, and the gun was pointed right at me.

The sudden shock spread across my body, sinking hard into my legs and hands.

Every part of me screamed out to run, but the surprise nailed me to the spot.

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